Mid Essex Trophy DF  17/10/2010  - The Day of the Triffids

   Start Gt. Bentley 13:30
   Operator Roy G4JAC/P
   Location  - North of Tiptree , just over 20 Km from the start

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DFers,  old and new, gather at Great Bentley Green

A lovely day and thirteen competitors, four of whom were beginners. Colin & Rosie were going to compete separately for the first time and they had brought along  a young Tim (not to be confused with the very old 'Tim the Burned Out', who henceforth will be referred to as TimBO). Craig (also new) would travel with Graham,  while Bob visiting from the Harwich club, would do the first part with Timbo.  The fourth beginner, Roger, had been given the location of the site and would meet with me (Roy) for some quick instruction before being left to do battle with the ten hidden Txs.

I had used Pod's wood before and was extremely disappointed when only three people turned up on the event, I hoped today would make more appropriate use of this excellent location.

As you can see above the transmitters were located in three woods with the Maxi roughly in the centre allowing me to exploit the rules to the full.  Normally I would not have the Txs spread so widely but this event was longer than normal and the Mid Essex Trophy was at stake - the winner had to earn that coveted prize.

I had to think carefully how I could structure the layout to give the beginners some success while providing a real challenge for the 'experts'.  Ideally I wanted the beginners to find two or three and the experts not to find all. (The not finding all is a desirable feature of this style of competition, ensuring that the experts have to make that 'when to give up and go for the Maxi' decision -  true DFers just love stress!!!!!!!!!!!)  

Those who took a copy of my original Tx plan from the pub will note some subtle differences above, this is where they were actually placed on the day.
The larger pond in Conyfield Wood, Micro Z was close by.
The great plan:  Conyfield Wood, being the smallest, was where I intended to shepherd the beginners to.   MIni K would act as the beacon to get them close enough to hear W and Z.  Pods Wood was to be medium difficulty with the stations more spread out and Layer Wood was intended to be the hardest with only two very well hidden Minis. J was located on the linking footpath to encourage competitors away from the main road.

Micros W, X,Y, Z and Maxi A would  have a white A4 sheet to spot in addition to the dreaded, virtually invisible 'Butson Triffids'.  The Minis, being used to frustrate the old hands, would just have the Triffid.  In addition the Micros and Maxi would be within a few metres of a decent path while the Minis would not!

On my initial visit to the woods I found that various activities go on which it would be wise not to clash with, archery,  paint balling  and  search & rescue dog training.   When I used Pods Wood previously I had spoken to one of the house owners at Haynes Green, a quick phone call to him gave me the relevant farmer to speak to and from there I got numbers for the reps of all these activities.  I was able to ascertain that we would not clash with the archers or dog trainers on Oct 17th and provided we kept away from the NE corner of Layer wood we would not get shot at.  With loads of dog walkers about I also made the free 0300 call to the Police so they were aware that mad people running about in army gear and wearing headphones were no threat to the general public. All those spoken to were most helpful and this gave me the piece of mind that the only irate people I would have to confront on the day would be DFers!
On the day I arrived on site at 10 am having put up the aerials for Maxi A and the Micros the day before.  I was pleased I didn't leave it any later as it was 1:00 pm before all Txs were in place, synchronised and tuned up.  A text from Philip at the start, just over 20Km away, saying he had heard me tuning up told me we were ready to go.  I had arranged to meet with Roger at the bottom of the Conyfield Wood at 1:45.  By 2:00 pm he seemed to know what all the knobs on the set did and was set free to hunt.  Taking the car to the top end of the wood to retrieve  my aerial pole left by Micro Z, I was quite surprised to see he was already closing in on W.  I was even more surprised when Philip arrived (2:15) saying he had parked miles away (top of Layer Wood) - serious running from our ex National Champion.  Was this going to be too easy for him? I was relieved when he ran straight by W, obviously not listening on 1843 KHz.

Having found the aerial pole I drove back to Pods Wood where Graham and Craig were running along the road. Waving goodbye to Graham I grabbed Craig for some DF set instruction and set him loose at the same beginners start point at the bottom of Conyfield Wood. Within minutes I spotted Timbo and Bob and applied the same treatment.  As Bob was released Larby was spotted heading for K.

Roger appeared beaming and pronouncing that this was much more fun than he had thought.  I suggested he should now attempt Maxi A and when close listen on 1901 KHz.  

Micro Z with 'easy to see A4 sheet' at the bottom of the tree.

Tim and Bob

Three out of four beginners 'happily' on their way but where was Tim (the younger)?  I eventually tracked him down with Rosie standing about 3 metres away from Maxi A.  A brief conversation established that they had not yet found it. Not wishing to spoil their fun I waited as they circled  'Logo like' until they had.  With tickets for A and Y posted I persuaded them up to Conyfield  Wood.  At the tea I learned that they had found K (hard) and Z but had not tuned to 1843 and thus missed W, altogether '...... Ahhhhhh bless.... '

A vibrating mobile phone alerted me to the plight of a slightly less happy Roger, he had found Y but was struggling with Maxi A - "A minute of transmission isn't enough for me to get a bearing" (and perhaps he was right, see my conclusion). However, reminding him that when he found Y he must have been within 200 metres of the Maxi A, plus a few shouts in Pods Wood to get him walking the right way had him back on track.  A bit more advice "The set won't help you much when you are close in, the long aerial is all around you, at this point it is just a game of hide and seek ... " does the trick.
Tim & Rosie heading for K

Roger and Colin getting close to Maxi A

4:12 pm Graham has spotted Maxi A

Posting tickets at the Maxi

 Ian was keen to prove that he was first to find Mini i

4:30 pm -weary DFers gather by the Maxi.

So it was time to collect up the Txs and head for the pub. At this point, what had been an almost perfect day for 'Your's truly the operator', took a turn for the worse. I decided to take the new set I had built, which Craig had been using, to track down Micro X and Mini H.  Micro X was no problem, sharp nulls and the sense circuit worked fine at a distance BUT when I attempted H, the one minute transmissions plus my uncertainty about what the set was telling me caused complete confusion! Failing to find it after three transmissions and aware that I really needed to get to the pub I gave up and ran back to the car for my normal set. In contrast one transmission close in and I was at H.    Again more about this in the conclusion.

The competitors show their appreciation of the event.
By the time I got back to the pub most people had finished their meals. The laptop was powered up and brimming with confidence after finding  nine out of ten stations, Larby volunteered to read out the ticket values. Unfortunately as he read out Philip's tickets he realised that he also had nine to his credit and three were 40s.

So for the second year in a row the trophy was Manningtree bound.

In the table below an x by a value means that ticket was not handed at the Maxi before 4:30 and thus is not counted.

Bob's two 15s are counted because none have been handed in on time but  his total is ranked after all the others who did get some tickets in on time. More explanation is here if you are not familiar with the scoring system.
res win
As is the tradition, after a DF, the first two competitors are invited to explain how they did, so that others may learn from their approach.  Before I hand over to Philip I think I should point out that he was seen getting rather too close to a number of exotic mushrooms abundant on site. 

This one was near Mini H, perhaps it was the cause of my own difficulties near that Tx? Over to the melodic Philip.
Results show – Sundays X Factor.

Sunday 19th October - music sung out from radios gathered at Gt Bentley Green for the latest round of the X-Factor.
Who would be saved, who would be ridiculed, who would win, all would become clear as the results programme went on air at 1.30 pm precisely.
Yes there would be drama and tears for both the novices and the more experienced contestants, the judges would see to that.
But all joined in the opening number, trill and loud, short and sweet, but enough to open the show and set people off on the right line.

First to be voted down was Gary. (Struggling with a malfunctioning  sense circuit Ed.) His rendition of ‘Lost in Alresford’ was given a right panning by judge Simon Cowell, and he was sent home distraught (that’s the cruelty of X-Factor). Others would surely follow before the end of the show.

The artist who made it first to the new Layer Wood stage, was Philip, who got through with his version ‘In the Year 1843’. Following this up with a fast, tuneful version of ‘ Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep’ he and his support band ‘Middle of the Road’ walked the ‘Hundred Miles’ across into the Classic ‘Coney Island’ wood. Here at the Mount they took tickets from those in row ‘W’ and ‘Z’ as well as from the cute girl wearing a sexy Mini skirt, known to all as Kay Triffid, hard to find and hard to please. Judge Cowell was there to watch, distracted as usual by Cheryl Cole this time searching the ground for sweet Chestnuts, but still clearly doubting whether our star would find the X-Factor in time.
Act two saw our star Philo across the road, launching his i-pod in the wood to locate his fans in row ‘H’. Swept up in all the exuberance he did the old time favourite ‘Walk on by’ thus missing the X-Factor that lay there, not lost but ‘Undiscovered’.

Time to take on the less well know ‘Ramparts’ by the band Kashmir, getting only a ‘J.lo’ rating by the judges who were starting to turn against the performance of our old timer, especially as he got stuck in the mud both ways and started to smell badly. Simon may have turned up his nose at this new odour – but no one could tell the difference from his normal expression.

The ‘Sixth step to Heaven’ found Philo in Layer Wood with another clutch of votes for the performance at ‘L’. On stiff questioning from the Judges he finally broke down stating ‘I can’t fight this feeling any more’ and decided to return for a quick run in his car down ‘The long and winding road’, to pick up again his earlier performance to the crowds in i-pod wood, though still showing no sign of a true X-Factor discovery on the cards.

Teaming up with the Merry double act there was a short run through of Annie Lennox’s ‘Why’ but by this time the big points had all gone.

By 4.00 pm eight votes were in, just in time for the final curtain call with a run through of ‘A Long & Winding road’ back in the main auditorium.
This took the Philo score to just nine and despite some miss-leading, last minute coaching by his sponsor, it became clear there was going to be no top ten this year, the competition had just been too hard.
So no X-Factor, but lots of postal votes were counted up in the Green room at the Cricketers after the show had finished.

A standing ovation was given to Forjac TV services for hosting this years Essex eliminator.

As the final scores were read out, floods of tears followed as the other contestants realised they have failed in their life long dreams to out perform the irrepressible Philo, who had lost none of the magic, despite a bad back, dislocated finger and smelly shoes.

Being interviewed soon after on Radio One, the Star of the show set the world a-gasp, revealing hidden details of a sordid and perverted sex life, long term addiction to a variety of substances, numerous affairs with other frequencies, several convictions for shop lifting and drunk driving, along with a secret desire to get onto Strictly Come Dancing. So every chance he will become even more famous and be back again next year!
Yep definitely mushroom syndrome.  In desperation we turn to Larby to explain to our newcomers just how a DF should be done:

I turned up on a sunny Sunday at the start full of hope and expectation (actually trepidation). There was some curiosity from a retired Lady Vicar and of a lot of people that would be taking part.

Good 1st signal but is the old fox in Wivenhoe on low power? Several more “test” bearings reveal he is in Friday Woods. I pass Richard and meet Ian on Clinghoe Hill as we enter  into Colchester. Other bearings confirm Friday Woods, upon arriving there he has moved everything along the road to Layer Wood ( I said he was crafty)
I met Ian again. I decided to approach from the South so I could decide if Layer Wood (East) or Copse Wood (West). The signals now went East, West and North !
So that’ll be 3 woods then ? I decided on “L” as did Ian, only 100 yds in and up came the TX but it took 3 more goes to actually find the Triffid despite being no more than 20 feet at any time from it! Anyway a healthy 40 points. Colin  had also gone around in circles. On the way out I saw Richard but where was Ian? Who cares?

I decided to locate “A” but I was unable to park so headed for this Micro, it had to be close it was so strong. I crossed the road and ran and ran and ran eventually finding  “W”, I found “Z” quickly and saw Roy enjoying watching our misery!  I found “K” easily but where was the damn Triffid ? (language Ed.) From here I ran South East for “H” but it took several transmissions to reach it only to find Tim and Ian lurking close by. As the signal came on I helped them by running away then came back to a few jeers from Ian.   I took care of “X” quickly and began to feel confident on my way to “J”. There’s Ian and he tries to cross the bog which claimed his leg up to the knee, (my turn to jeer but I restrained myself!)  With “J”  found it was around to “A” at 4:20, as “Y” sounded close it was found and claimed in the Post-box before 4:30.

My efforts brought me second place with 9 of the 10 found behind the worthy winner in the shape of Philip. There was also some poetic justice when Roy couldn’t find “H” due to a faulty set and had to return to his car for another.  (I see no poetry in it Ed.)
Conclusion (already I hear you say)

Thanks to all of you for coming, especially the beginners.  This style of DF was conceived in order to give you a chance to compete in the same competition as old hands (see here).  With each event I think we get closer;  the first part (in Conyfield Wood) worked well.  The second part where the wood was larger and it was essential to DF the Maxi gave problems.  You will see from the results that Colin (winner of the last 'Multi') did uncharacteristically badly - the main reason being that he had used the spare set so that Rosie could use the normal one.  I suspect he suffered from the same difficulties that I had trying to find H with an unfamiliar set.  Given sets that we were not used to, neither of us could sense the Minis close in and with just a minute of signal you don't get the chance to run in on strength alone. So it is no wonder that those using a DF set for the first time struggled! It was never my intention that the Minis should form part of the 'Beginners Course', however, it is necessary for them to find the Maxi which also only runs one minute in five. It does run continuously for the last 30 minutes but by this time newcomers may become disillusioned. Therefore I have reprogrammed the Maxi to give longer transmissions (2 mins) during the last hour - full details are here. Hopefully this will be more appropriate for beginners while having little effect on the challenge presented to the experts, they will be far too busy trying to find the Minis.

Although the Micros are easy to DF for an expert, remembering to check for them at each station and incorporating them into your point collection strategy does provide a challenge for all.  There distribution also adds a small element of luck which does give us old'uns a chance of beating the young and fit sometimes. Timbo, who would normally count among the young and fit but on this occasion suffering from a chest infection, told me how surprised he was at what he had achieved by just walking the course and concentrating on careful radio operation.

Two more chances to experience Multi-Tx DF this year see here and thus two more chances to tweak the competition to amuse both novice and expert. Good luck to Ian and then Timbo in this respect.

Thanks to all who provided pictures and words to create another epic report.